Saturday, February 23, 2008


Presume not with mind alone to scan,
For the world is grasped with guided hand,
With action is the final layer unpeeled,
Thus, the glory of the world revealed.

Presume not the I of the self to scan,
The proper study of mankind is man,
By all is the mark of each subject sealed,
This, the glory of the self revealed.

Wear not then the veil of ascetic retreat
Obscuring the self and world that you seek,
Engage though action with all who surround,
Therein does the glory of the truth abound.

When your science teacher smashed a frozen rose with a hammer, did you warm the petals to bring them back to life?

No, i put my teacher's head in a deep freeze, and returned days later to see if the hammer had the same effect. It did. I was called up to see the head, who had himself almost succumbed to the same fate at the hands of another hammer. The head had that studied stern look about him, all the more intimidating because of the way he had been mounted, on a pole six feet high. However, my recalcitrance unsettled him. And so he referred me to the deputy head, who had been similarly seperated from his still pining torso, except that he wore a ten gallon hat that would have done justice to the hardest meanest gun slinger in the west. You know the type. The kind that only have to pitch their shadow into a mid-western saloon, for a silence to then descend, so that only the sound of the wind and the tumbleweed blowing on the plains would disturb the creaking of the floorboads beneath the quivering knees of the lilly livered jaundiced drunks that had assembled in the hope of being spotted by a casting director in search of a genuine cowboy who had sunk his spirit in bottle after bottle ... and all because of roses that not only had been returned by the objects of their unrequited love, but had been returned in pieces, having been frozen and then smashed to smithereens. I mean for gods sake. That's enough to turn anyone to drink.

Isn't it Ironic

Do you remember that song by Alanis Morissette? ''Isn’t it Ironic'', she whines. Isn’t it ironic when you have ten thousand spoons but all you need is a knife. No Alanis, no, that’s just plain stupid, or at best incompetent. Isn’t it ironic, she moans, when you’re stuck in a traffic jam and you're already late. No Alanis. That’s not ironic. That’s unlucky. Of course, if you were stuck in a traffic jam on your way to a town planning meeting to discuss the alarming increase in congestion on the roads .. that would be ironic.

Alanis is a Canadian and naturalized American. I don’t mean to generalize, but Americans don’t seem to get irony. By the way, I’ve just been guilty of something that, as a rule, I abhor; the habit that people have of saying “I don’t mean to be X”, and then proceed to be exactly that, X. As if somehow, saying “I don’t mean to be X” gives them the license to be X. Like, “I don’t mean to be pedantic, but do you realize that strictly speaking, your use of the term ‘ironic’ is not really warranted in the circumstances”. Anyway, where was I. Yes, Americans don’t really seem to get irony. Irony is somehow predicated on the incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs. And so a well developed sense of irony seems to go hand in hand with an ability to step outside of yourself and see yourself as others do. It’s something that doesn’t come naturally to the American psyche. After all, look at the way they dress.

But enough xenophobic nonsense. This piece was inspired by an irony so stark and grotesque that it deserves exhibiting in a freakshow of the politically deviant. I am of course talking about Tony Blair's new role as Middle East peace envoy. The White House have been the prime movers behind this extraordinary appointment. Well, we can certainly agree that the American political elite are mired in a sollipsistic failure to empathise, to see themselves as others see them. There are plenty of tragi-comic exhibits testifying to that.

That because this world is as it is, does not mean it need necessarily be.

He sipped some wine,
Closed his eyes,
Pursed his lips,
And pronounced on the flavours,
The soil and the vine.
Then soliciting praise
He declared to the host
“But then I am just a philistine”
To which fellow fallen jowls acquiesced:
“An untrained palate, and yet so refined!”

So the wine passed their preening lips
That pressed the flesh
That plumped up his ego,
So that he held forth
When the conversation turned
To matters of weight;
Of the hurricane’s havoc
In a southern US state.

But he supped only from the cup he’d been given;
Platitudes dribbled from his mouth:
“It’s a tragedy”,
“But then maybe fate decrees”,
“It was meant to be”.

“I see”, said I,
Your half closed eyes,
Your fatalistic call to inaction.
Your soporific words,
The paralysing metre
Of your Panglossian dirge
That leaves your conscience undisturbed.

But his calloused brain,
Abraded, blanched and coarse of grain,
Refused to comprehend,
That because this world is as it is
Does not mean it need necessarily be.

My duty to my self, My duty to you

Those qualities that distinguish me from you,
The I that is by definition all that is not you,
Exists because of you.

You who may be but a fleeting encounter,
Or a significant other.
You, who imprint your self upon the world,
As the world imprints itself upon you,
Each shaping the other.
The very same world that shapes
And is shaped by my self.
You, who realize my self
As I realize your self.

Is not then my duty to my self -
the imperative of self preservation -
On a continuum with my duty to you.

Fuzzy Time

The older I get, the fuzzier time becomes.
I think it’s a self defence mechanism.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Gharbar - Crossing the Rubicon

I had come in from the cold with Alf by my side. Inside, the hall was bedecked with saris, slung over beams that reached from one wall to another, surreptitiously tacked to the walls, wound in pleats and then gathered to drape over the shoulders of the assembled women. To the rear of the hall they were clearing away what was left of the food. Coke, water and orange juice were still being served. The chairs, and those still seated, had retreated, leaving the front half of the hall for the gharbar. I stood to the side and looked on, detached, from across a gap borne of that all too human cleaving of the conscious from the primal. The lights were bright and the music was live, and many of the wedding guests, mostly the younger ones, were lined up facing each other, approaching and then retreating, approaching and retreating with their arms tracing spirals amidst the tidal glitter of gold and colour and smiles crowning wave after wave. The dance was designed for life, bringing people together so that their connections were true, so that they might court with a smile, a movement, a look held fast, unbroken and untainted by self-consciousness. As I looked on, a tangible sense of what I was witnessing - the growing swell of collective exaltation - broke upon me, overwhelming my thoughts. I submitted. I was entranced. I wanted to cry. Tears were forming. Humanity, at its most edifying, in its most glorious guise. The music and the dancing gathered pace. A small group of women had broken away and were spinning as they circled, their feet stepping in time to the music's ever quickening tempo - Neesha's grace was that of a soul dancing. How now can I articulate what I felt ? I cannot. I can only indicate. My whole being was riven by the apprehension of the coming together, of the unity of individuals indivisible.

The music reached a crescendo and then stopped. The dancers broke away from their neat lines to gather up the dhandia - short wooden sticks, a pair to a person - and then returned to line up facing each other, brandishing the dhandia as they rehearsed the strokes. The band struck up again and the guests began to move to its rhythm, knocking their own dhandia together, and then with one step moving towards their partner, dhandia raised and then sweeping in an arc to clash with their partner's, crossing in the air, back and forth, once, twice, thrice. Each then retreated, again bringing their own dhandia together as they spun full circle while moving laterally in opposite directions, so as to emerge face to face with dancers to the left. And so it began again. The solitary clash of dhandia, then raised, each arm extended beyond itself to strike in kinship, wood on wood, self on self, me, you, we, all of us, the world revealed through the fog of thought, laughter, step back, a flirtatious twirl, a teasing thrust mocking swords smelted in the furnace of atman, again a clash, a spin, a missed move, a sideways glance and a sideways step, two streams flowing side by side, in opposite directions, bridged in the air by the coupling dhandia.

I watched, absorbed, and the mist cleared for a moment, affording me a glimpse of sky and earth reunited, the one born of the other, reflecting the other in its yearning to return, to bridge the divide that they may once again coincide in their entangled coupling. I jumped, with the sky on my back, and lay down to soak in the giving ground. I danced, laughed, spun and staggered; a novice again. When we faced each other it was Kunal who leapt. Reena struck hardest when our dhandia met. The swaggering of souls embroidering their steps. The heat and sweat, and the panting of breath. The music stopped. Shailan and I grabbed and held a dhandia together, leaning back and facing each other, holding tight to the dhandia. And then we began to circle around its flucrum. We spun, faster and faster, in staggering circles. Faster and faster, until Shailan was now the fixed point, and it was the backdrop of the world arround us that was spinning. We stopped, finally, giddy and out of breath. I leant against the wall for support. I was laughing. The world was a carousel that I was now riding. I had crossed the rubicon.

The Ivory Towers

Today was distinguished by the discovery of a greek myth that may have escaped the scrutiny of classical scholars.

The myth relates to the fate of two spurned lovers, their unrequited entreaties having been rebuffed by the one and the same; that most tragic of heroes, Narcissus. You may recall the story of Echo, that lively tounged companion of the goddess Hera, who had used her eloquence to distract Hera's attention from her husband Zeus's embrace with a young nymph. Hera, having discovered Echo's deception cursed her tounge decreeing that she would never again be able to initiate speech, only to repeat the last words uttered by another voice. The story of Thenides is less well known. He too was the victim of the gods' malign meddlings. Punished for his indisciplined approach to the liturgies of the day, he was blighted by a malady of malapropisms. Thus, every sentence he uttered was rendered meaningless. Both Echo and Thenides were both, at separate times, subject to the spell of Narcissus's beauty (who can blame them? Even the gods circling above on their starlit thrones would part the clouds to stare in wonder). Alas, both were summarily rejected by Narcissus, his beauty tainted by the impossibility of love, of giving love. Echo and Thenides bemoaned the impotency of their powers of seduction, unaware that the object of their infatuation was plagued by such misfortune.

True and sustained realisation of the self is nurtured by our meaningful interactions with others. And so both Echo and Thenides despaired, their human conditions wilting, deprived as they were of the nurturing so imperative to their flowering. Their paths crossed and they grieved together. Unable to share words that conveyed their thoughts, they supped from the same cup of tears. And then both retreated from the world, each to a tower poles apart, each tower borne aloft from from the same beginnings:

The story of the two towers - In the age of the Golden race, before that minister of time Cronus was usurped by his son Zeus, the Silver race had begun to establish a presence on earth, and hence delusions of grandeur. Envious of their superiors, the silver skinned demi-gods contrived a plan to plunder some of the lustre that so distinguished their golden ancestors. They cast aside all internecine differences in one grand collaborative effort to build two towers to scale the skies, each tower antipodal to the other, each aiming at the treasure troves that orbited the outer reaches of the heavens. But no sooner did the parapets of those towers straddle the stratosphere, then the golden gods inflicted many tounges on the Silver usurpers, rendering them incapable of communication, and thus any further collaboration was doomed; the towers would reach no further.

And so it was that both Echo and Thenides removed themselves to these very same towers, where, unaware of their shared fate, they wiled away the days pining for loves lost and never to be. Unbeknownst to them, the demi-gods, those greek heroes who bore responsibility for the pitiful states of the exiles, had discovered the irony that so supremely crowned these towers. For although the upward path of the Babel-ian towers had been curtailed by the plague of
many tounges that afflicted their silver-plated builders, their horizontal paths extended far beyond their outer dentin walls. Indeed, these paths circled the globe, tracing in their arced passage communicative conduits via which messages inscribed on tablets might be sent and received by the demi-gods. Thus did the two towers become way-stations, imbuing with vitality the tablets that were borne aloft their per-orbital extensions. Demeter need only leave an imprint of her mind in the hot wax of an enameled tablet, and dispatch it on its way to one and then the other tower (each time the tablets delivered from inside those opaque walls would be charged with such energy as to out-pace even Hermes) eventually reaching the awaiting eyes of the eager Persephone, still ensnared in the fiery clutch of Hades.

Echo and Thenides soon discovered the tablets that passed through the portholes punctuating the upper reaches of their towers. Although their tounges were blunted, their wits were still sharp. For here they had discovered a way by which they might bypass their barren tounges and communicate to each other. Relishing the vengeance that they wrought, they would intercept the tablets sent by the demi-gods and purloin one thought burnt by words into the wax of one tablet, another thought inscribed into the wax of another, and compose from the sentences plucked from the tablets, their own thoughts that they would then send to each other. The intercepted tablets were then either discarded, or sent, garbled and incomprehensible, on their way to the destined demi-god. And indeed the demi-gods wrung their hands in despair, for much confusion and misunderstanding ensued as a result of epistles sent but not received, epsitles sent but so corrupted by the plundering of our two heroes, that they were rendered meaningless upon reaching their recipients. And both Echo and Thenides amused themselves as they read of the ensuing mayhem so earnestly chronicled in the subsequent epistles that they intercepted. And both Echo and Thenides composed ever more elaborate locutions for each other from the words contained in those missing and corrupted mails. And both Echo and Thenides flowered once again in the late and lonely autumns of their lives.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Shaktapur was a city revered for its ancient and divine providence, and for its riverside pillars and steps which descended below the water line, as if to then disappear deep into the waters. Legend witnessed the illusion in reverse, claiming that the city had surfaced from the holy river, and that once exposed had resonated with eternal truths disentangled from Lord Siva's watery locks. It told of how the city had thrust itself into and with the world, before the time of Manu and the great flood; ageless, having been born with rather than in time. Weathered inscriptions encircled the city's pillars, celebrating the epic age when deities battled and wagered over the city's throne. Amongst the most eloquent were the pillars framing the largest of the ancient burial sites; the Ghanysham ghat, whose walls were said to be the first to cleave the waters. In picture and verse they told of a great king's accession; of his ascent to power having won a wager challenging him to perform a feat unheralded even among the most exalted of the brahmins. On the edge of the old city, the king had faultlessly performed ten horse sacrifices. Simultaneously!

Holy fever still gripped the city's riverside quarter. Frenzied ritual spilled over from the northern banks into the water, where bathers shed their grime and sins and the burnt remains of the dead came to rest. More modern day commerce also flourished by the river's edge. Tourists bought spiritual trinkets from sadhus who were salesmen and salesmen who were sadhus. The south bank was flat and deserted, giving way to marshland that extended to the horizon. The north bank was crowded with temples and ghats, some of which had been recently built by rich benefactors hoping to accumulate credit for the cyclical drama of judgement and rebirth. From the temples and ghats, a maze of interconnected alleys spread out northwards, east and west, fading into the newly built affluence that sprawled beyond the outer edge of the old city.

Chotu set of in the morning mist, walking eastwards from the Tulsi ghat along the north bank. The night had passed sleeplessly, so that his step was uncertain and his eyes heavy. He squinted at a group of women preparing for their morning ablutions, their brightly coloured saris reflecting mosaically in the rippled water. A huddled figure rowed a boat lazily along the pink column cast on the water by the still rising sun. Beyond, over on the south bank, the mist shrouded the transition from land to water. He passed a group of young boys sipping hot chai. They were huddled around a decaying tiger, who, together with its twin statue had once guarded the entrance to a magnificent temple. What remained of the temple stood decrepit, stranded, half submerged in the river. Its walls blackened by smoke, windows bored into their stained fabric.

Chotu approached the Ghanysham ghat, overflowing with pilgrims, bodies and hands rubbing on bare skin. Here the sounds reached a new pitch. The splash of water and soapy lather, the drone of incantation, mundane conversation, appeals and admonition, the background hum of meditation, competing loudspeakers plying bollywood tunes and religious exhortation. Large boats laden with chopped wood stood moored by the ghat. Steps rose from the water?s edge, and then iron railings corralling the cremation enclosure. Further inland, and raised above the cremation area, another enclosure fronted by railings, in which accumulated ashes were dumped. These were periodically being doused by water, propelling ashes upwards, so that the surrounding air swirled with grey white flakes and the hiss of rising steam. Two small girls sifted the ashes in metal pans, prospecting for valuables that may have survived the flames. A funeral cortege bearing a body on wooden poles descended down the steps to the water. The body was wrapped in gold and green foil, it's garlanded head emerging from the gaudy shroud. Cupped hands submerged to then douse the corpse with water. The body was carried aloft to the cremation enclosure, where three men tended the flames, shifting logs, clasping them with pincers fashioned from sticks. They encircled the fire, squatting on their haunches, toes splayed, their displaced veins bulging from the sides of their ankles. Next to the pyre, within a few feet, dogs lay curled up in broken sleep, basking in the flames' heat. Occasionally one would rise, circle, and then collapse again. A boy sat perched on the lower bar of the railing, his legs dangling glibly, while tourists beyond the railings watched on in earnest. Chotu saw a young man's shaven head glinting in the sun. The man stood alone bearing witness to his father's final rite of passage into the ethereal haze that would then drift and settle on the water. Chotu watched him attend to the ceremony, fighting his grief with ritual and custom.

Chotu turns away from the cremation and walks to the adjacent main steps where crowds have thronged to bathe in the river. Men in loin cloths, women in saris, wet, clinging to their bodies. A Pepsi Cola sign. An old man clasps his hands. A crimson tikka, exclaiming from his forehead a silent polemic. A saffron scarf around his neck. White cropped hair. Eyes closed, his lips trembling with prayer and cold. Beyond, a flat rising angled wall upon which are spread out washed sheets and clothes to dry. The loud distorted thud of laundry being slammed, from above the dhobiwallahs' heads, onto the lower steps. Chotu descends the steps and enters the water. A bather rubs the sole of his foot on the lowest step, as if his sins had manifested as a physical patina of filth so that every square inch of his skin demanded cleansing. A woman lowers her cupped hands repeatedly, frantically, each time drawing up water to fall on her body. She performs her ritual ablutions, clapping her hands twice, chanting a prayer. Holding her nostrils she immerses herself, and then rises shaking off the cold water, and then immerse, rise, immerse, rise, her sari clinging precariously, immodestly. He moves forward, the water's resistance forcing him to sway from side to side. As he advances he draws up water and rubs frenetically at his skin. Chotu's eyes close, and the events of the last days unfurl in his head, a chimera of images, blending and then disassociating, each image precipitating another, and then dissolving back again. And now his eyes are forced out, sideways, into the watery world, by,.., by something familiar. His eyes, stinging, cold, fixed into the middle distance. A floating body entombed in a wet sari. Orange and green. Drifting, not now with the natural flow, but towards him, against the gentle current. His hands submerge again, lifting the water; water fleeing through the cracks in his cupped palms. Eyes downcast, voicing an empty prayer. And then, with a jerk, he is impelled to look up to where the body is now closer, much closer. He wades in deeper, pushing back the water that only recoils to surround him. Suddenly the body is within touching distance. The light fades, the noise abates, smells recede. His senses are consumed by the body. He reaches out and removes the floral and paisley veil. Sajeev's face. Uncovered. Sajeev's eyes, they open wide and smile knowingly. Chotu chokes. His throat constricts. The strangulation; it ripples through his half clean body. His legs buckle and he sinks beneath the surface. Something has taken hold: from below; weighing him down, into the deep; cleansing him to his core.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Nomad

Once more an autobiographical tale of rivers, wanderings and reflection:

The Nomad

As the sun began its descent, heralding another evening's contemplation, the nomad arrived at a river. He approached, thinking it to be a mirage until the cool water calmed his thirst. He decided to lay down his staff, to rest, drink, and cast his thoughts into the water. He sat for a long while, delighting in the river's ready acceptance of his reflections. Throughout his remembered life he had led a nomadic existence, passing through from one place to the next, each departure heralding the possibilty of new pastures, of a place where he might settle and throw of his itinerant wanderings. But no sooner did he arrive, then the call of his restless spirit would announce itself again, and so once more he would set of in search. And travelling again, he would glimpse the illusory nature of the ideal he sought, and yearn for release from the seeker's bondage.
He continued to drink at the river. His thirst sated, he stood, gathered his belongings and looked across the river to the plains stretching away in the distance. As he did so he was caught unprepared by his own reflection in the water, seeing himself in the face of a stranger who revealed to him the truth of his tiredness and solitude. In that brief emancipatory moment his self submitted willingly to the present waters. He laughed, threw down his belongings, and abandoned himself to the river. He removed his dusty clothes and entered the water like a child, splashing and kicking, drawing up water in his cupped hands and spraying his face, diving beneath the surface, stretching out afloat with arms extended, face up, his eyes half open to the sun?s rays, their colours fanning out through the liquid prisms that laced his lashes.

And so he spent some weeks there by the river's edge, bathing in its waters, and in its love of life. He cut his long hair and watched them carried away. He burnt the rags that clothed him, and from the roll of cloth that had served for his home, he cut and stitched new clothes. Slowly, the idea formed that he might find a more permanent rest in this enchanted place; to remain in this one place and yet pursure a journey of a different kind, as did the waters themselves. The nomad scouted the surrounding plains, following the river upstream, learning its ways and its riches. He learnt how to laugh and share his secrets with the river. He learnt to follow the river's course, neither questioning or seeking answers. And then, close to where the river emerged from the hills he came across a wooded area, where the land was more fertile and the air fresh with scent. From his belongings he retrieved an axe and began to build a home from the trees, and as the home grew, so did the river's passion, and so the nomad's desire to dance by its side, to the music of the wind that whistled through the outspread branches of the mangrove trees. Months passed, during which the nomad and the river lived side by side, each relating to the other of places they had been, people they had met, wonders they had seen. And a deep love grew between the two, borne out of and then transcending the passionate beginnings of their tryst. Here, the nomad thought, is where I will find a companion with whom I can be at peace, and who can quell my longing for searching.

But as the months passed, the river began to discern beneath the nomad's tranquil smile, older stirrings that had not died. And the nomad too grew uneasy, and fearfull of the long winter nights during which once again he began to wrestle with his old ways. At first he thought his calls to the road would pass, that they were simply echoes resonating from his former life. But then a sadness grew in his heart again, for he had betrayed the river, in not understanding that a lifetime?s longing cannot be so easily vanquished by another, and that is was folly to expect such a thing from another. He understood then, that he must distill from within himself, a balm for his uneasy heart, and alone must shatter the illusions impelling him on his eternal search. And then, and only then, did he deserve the river, and the river him.
One morning, as the sun began its ascent, heralding the end of another?s night's restless contemplation, the nomad walked naked to the river's edge, and dipped his feet in the cold water. He sat by the edge and dangled his legs. But the river seemed so distant, and its flow had lost its gentle rhythm and eddied more turbulently than ever before. The nomad hesitantly prepared to launch himself in the water, but as he was about to do so, he saw that the once crystal clarity of his reflection had become sullied and distorted. And he knew in that instant that it was not due to any diminishment of the river?s powers, but that it was himself holding back from giving of his reflection. But still he decided to submerge himself in the river. He prepared to dive, but as he was about to do so the river suddenly began to withraw from the shaded bank, retreating to its centre, so that it's passage narrowed and it?s tunefull flow gave way to a rushing discord. The nomad stepped back, and in that instant knew what both the river and he willed. He walked mournfully back to his wooden hut and tiredly repeated the rituals of gathering his belongings and preparing for another journey. But this time, instead of the usual restless expectation, his rituals proceeded with a profound sadness that shrouded his heart.

And so the nomad set of again, while behind him the cries of the river reverberated louder as it's course continued to narrow. The nomad's progress was slow, for he stopped again and again to turn back and stare longingly at the river he left behind. And as he walked, the burden of his sorrows grew as the rumble of the river's anguished passage faded. After some hours he stopped and sat in the shade of a banyan tree. He was surrounded by the sound of wind and birds and the murmur of life folding and unfolding. And then, as he sat, thinking once again of the river, he was envelopped by a sudden silence. And the nomad himself was stilled, but for the beating of his heart. The silence lengthened, and in its wake the faltering course of what was now but a stream could be heard. The nomad raised his head from his chest, and looked to the point from where he had come. He stood up and set of again, walking now with purpose, in the evening cool. Night fell, and only the moon lit his path, but it was a path he knew well that took him through the mangrove trees. He planted his staff once more into the still damp soil and walked to the midpoint of what was once a river. He walked to the other side, his shoes still dry. He himself then lay down, let his weary head rest, his cheek pressed against the earth, and cast his gaze upon the dry riverbed. For how long he would stay there he did not know. He felt no desire to seek answers, as he lay there waiting for the river to once more flow.

Monday, March 06, 2006

More about myself

Some people (actually just me) have been complaining that this site is not very revealing of the author - that somehow I use wordplay and poetic artifice to obscure from sight anything of the "real me". Ok, fair enough. So here's some more autobiographical detail:

I was born in London at a very young age, and am eternally indebted to a small pair of scissors (that I imagine have now sucumbed to the ravages of rust and time). The scissors, which I affectionately refer to as 'hands', were clasped together in prayer at some godforsaken hour on July 13th 1932. This act of worship brought about the parting of a string from a wrist , a thin multicoloured thread tied by a sister on a brother, only to be rudely parted by same sister, in an act of misunderstood playfulness. Brother, far too senstive for his own well being, asked to be reimbursed the five english shillings he'd handed over along with a fragile oath of lifelong protection (the tying of the string in exchange for money and an oath of protection being a long standing annual custom celebrating the bond of brothers and sisters), and then fled the family fold to join a company of sheep.

The sheep mooed and bleated; in this land of cows and bovine privillege the poor things were suffering a self imposed identity crisis, as were the other animals imported from New Zealand by Mr. Sharma, proprieter of the all new antipodean zoo. Brother became resident zookeeper, and fascinated by the furry things, took to close relations, knitting himself a comfort blanket on those lonely, frustrating adolescent nights. One in particular stood out. 'Bo peep' he named her, but only in retrospect.

Brother's abandoned family pleaded. Bo peep bleated. Brother's stubborn streak greeted. The one with contempt, the other with a cuddle and a warm sweet nothing. Time came to pass, as it invariably does, with such blasted inconvenience, rearing its finite head above the parapet and mocking Brother with its swift passage. The sheep died. So did Mr Sharma, and with him the zoo. What to do? Brother returned home, to find himself permanently ostracized.

''We sent you to the best schools, and this is how you have repaid us?''.

''The sacrifices we made, and you end up living with sheep, hai, hai, it breaks my heart even to say it''.

''If I could reach you I would slap you''.

Did I forget to say? Brother suffered from an overactive thyroid; he was a giant of what he had now become. A MAN. And so they bleated their scalding scoldings; except that, well except that the only one scalded was Sister, who still held herself responsible. Brother left, forever now estranged, and as he left through the departing door, eyed that culpable pair of scissors, that so long ago...
A tailor Brother became. Why not? If his life had taken so drastic a turn with a snip snip on thread, why change the lifetime of a habit?

One day, brother sat at his sewing machine. His heart thumped louder than the turning spindle. Could it be? The wool from which he cut bore the unmistakable smell, the signature touch and feel of his long departed Bo Peep. Oh, what cruel irony. Enough to dispel all faith in irony of a happier kind. Brother cried while smothering his face in BoPeep's woven pelt. Ahh, but then the viccisitudes of life, for at that very moment, when tears of remorse were flooding the plains of Brother's grieving face, a maiden entered to deliver a commission for her mother. If there was one maiden susceptible to a tender giant then it was she, her sensibility corrupted by the romantic lie that a sensitive soul encased by a brutish demenour, is somehow more virtuous in its sensitivity than the sensitive soul of a eight stone weakling. Pah! Yes she, the maiden who had overdosed on German romanticism, walked in at the very same moment that Brother was bent remorsefully over BoPeep's pelt. Oh what a sight she moaned. So magnificent a man mountain. Hung, she was sure, like a horse. But such tactile sensitivity that it could bring tears to his eyes! They were married on Febuary 14th 1934. I am their grandson. The rest of the blogs on this site will, I hope, now make some kind of sense.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


I was indulging myself yesterday, reading from a diary I kept
during my 1998 trip to India - I would take snapshots with my pen
rather than my camera -here is a little something that I wrote while
sitting on a train - another small piece I am dedicating to friends who
recently experienced for the first time the joys of parenthood - only
children (of whatever age) have the gift of stopping time in its tracks.

I sit looking out on to the landscape moving, the rich greens and waters rippling in the train's wake. I experience for a while a timeless contentment. Opposite, a small boy stands up from his train seat. His mother looks out onto the landscapemoving. He trails his fingers along the padded back of the seat, and pokes his mother's midriff bulging out between blouse and sari. She reacts, irritated, and scolds him with a glare. Chastised, he strives to win back her favour. He places his hand on her arm; she brushes it away and deepens his sense of rejection, by once more peering out onto landscapemoving. His face is hurting, and his eyes betray the fear of love lost. The scene is played out again, his seeking hand cast away brusqely, her eyes cast fixedly on landscapemoving.

And then she is there again, smiling into his face, and visibly, physically, the visceral hurt lifts from him, and he is all talk and animation, roused from the lethargy of his rejection. And she not only smiles, but she listens; how she listens, shaking her head from side to side in agreement; oh what a smile of adoration, of respect even, for his words, his gifts. She is stoking his arm. They are both animate - as one. The scene is bursting, it's everywhere, the flash of her nose ring, his swaying gently into his mother's folds, green sari and bangles. She listens, looking ahead of her, absorbing his words with all that she has, and nodding her head. And then when he pauses, she turns towards him, screws up her nose and bursts forward again in laughter. She smiles and laughs with him, at his words, at the world outside reflected through his eyes. She laughs as she would with no adult, for it is the joy of a child, timeless but for the present, that it is his gift to her. Their hands are clasped. She looks out again, and he turns over her hand, and traces his finger in her palm. And now silence, and theprofusion of motherson love is still tangible in their distant stares onto landscape moving.

Monday, February 27, 2006

It is the very nature of our imagination,
Whose conceit it is to transform the here and now
Into the more of what might be,
So that rather than be stilled to admire the meeting of earth and sky
It forever chases horizons


The following alludes to the chemicals that serve as regulators of the body clock throughout the animal kingdom - and the current research on aging - how the genetic coding is being experimented with in order to prolong life.


The many faced timekeepers, perched,
like sentinels keeping rhythm over their charge,
keep an omnipresent order over all that twists and turns obligingly
for their gratefull hosts.

They have kept watch throughout time,
these stern masters of their own destiny,
their clicks tock the serendepitous rhythms of life,
for that which mushrooms of the seafloor,
to those that embrace the skies in their flight

And we now, their minions,
probe the artistry of their ministrations,
but let us be forewarned lest we dislodge from their perch
that which orchestrates our constancy,
that which gave us time.

When young I saw the sweeping second hand,
sweeping within me, through me, and intuiting
in all that I saw with fresh and startled eyes,
at every turn, in every sharp intake of breath.

Two mountains

Written from a vantage point high on a trail through mountains:

Two mountains

In the district of lakes and peaks,
one mountain top spoke to another,
their words of rhyme and prose
carried on clouds that crowned their snow capped heads.
'How I weep for those times when once no clouds
Passed between our sky touched mouths'
spoke one, as the winter's first snows
winded down it's sides in glacial tears.
'There was a time when our faces pressed against each other
In an embrace I thought would last forever.
Now the earth has opened up a valley to separate us,
so that we can no longer touch.
And the other replied,
'True, we are now apart where once we were one.
But this separation is to be celebrated,
and not to be mourned.
This valley across which we gaze,
through the reflected snows of winter,
the pine greens of summer,
the dancing blossom of spring
and the fickle browns of autumn.
This valley is a thing of beauty,
bejewelled as it is by a diamond lake.
What greater joy might shiver through my slopes, then to see your reflection in it's crystal waters.'